“Here’s some of what the Lonely Planet – Myanmar chapter Yangon has to say about the Shwedagon Pagoda:
“Heart-stopping at any time, the Shwedagon Paya glitters bright gold in the heat of the day. Then, as the sun casts its last rays it turns a crimson gold and orange, magic floats in the heat and the mighty diamond surmounting the summit casts a beam of light that reflects sheet white, bloody red and jealous green to the far corners of the temple platform. It can be quiet and contemplative or colourful and raucous, and for the people of Myanmar it is the most sacred of all Buddhist sites, one that all Myanmar Buddhists hope to visit at least once in their lifetime.
You must remove your shoes and socks as soon as you mount the first step. Like the other entrances, the southern steps are lined with a series of shops, where devotees buy flowers – both real and beautifully made paper ones – for offerings. Buddha images, ceremonial paper umbrellas, books, golden thrones, incense sticks, ivory combs and antiques are also on sale. However hot it may be outside, you’ll find the walkway cool, shady and calm. It’s this quiet, subdued atmosphere on the entrance steps that makes the impact so great as you arrive at the platform.
You emerge from semi-gloom into a deafening explosion of technicoloured glitter – for Shwedagon is not just one huge, glowing zedi (stupa). Around the mighty stupa cluster an incredible assortment of smaller zedi, statues, temples, shrines, images and small pavilions. Somehow, the bright gold of the main stupa makes everything else seem brighter and larger than life.
Stupas – indeed, all Buddhist structures – should be walked around clockwise, so turn left at the top of the steps and, like the crowds of locals, start strolling. During the heat of the day you’ll probably have to confine yourself to the mat pathway laid around the platform – unless your bare feet can take the heat of the uncovered marble paving.
THE STUPA & ITS TREASURES
The hill on which the stupa stands is 190 ft above sea level and the platform covers over 12 acres. Prior to the British takeover of southern Myanmar there had been defensive earthworks around the paya, but these were considerably extended by the British. The emplacements for their cannons can still be seen outside the outer wall.
The main stupa, which is completely solid, rises from its platform in a fairly standard pattern. First there is the plinth, which stands 21 ft above the clutter of the main platform and immediately sets Shwedagon above the lesser structures.
Smaller stupas sit on this raised platform level – four large ones mark the four cardinal directions, four medium- sized ones mark the four corners of the basically square platform and 60 small ones run around the perimeter.”
KAPOORS ON THE ROAD